Christopher Hitchens dies; Vanity Fair writer was a religious skeptic, master of the contrarian essay

December 16th, 2011

The Washington Post
By Matt Shudel
Dec. 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, a sharp-witted provocateur who used his formidable learning, biting wit and muscular prose style to skewer what he considered high-placed hypocrites, craven lackeys of the right and left, “Islamic fascists” and religious faith of any kind, died Dec. 15 at a hospital in Houston. He was 62.

He had pneumonia and complications from esophageal cancer, according to a statement from Vanity Fair, the magazine for which Mr. Hitchens worked.

Mr. Hitchens, an English-born writer who had lived in Washington since 1982, was a tireless master of the persuasive essay, which he wrote with an indefatigable energy and venomous glee. He often wrote about the masters of English literature, but he was better known for his lifelong engagement with politics, with subtly nuanced views that did not fit comfortably with the conventional right or left.

In his tartly worded essays, books and television appearances, Mr. Hitchens was a self-styled contrarian who often challenged political and moral orthodoxy. He called Henry Kissinger a war criminal, savaged Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, ridiculed both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, then became an outspoken opponent of terrorism against the West from the Muslim world.

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